At its meeting Tuesday the Engineering Subcommittee of the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) heard plans for the Hennepin Lyndale Bottleneck and the Nicollet Mall Redesign, two street makeovers that are seeing minor bicycle facility improvements.
Hennepin Lyndale Bottleneck
The City of Minneapolis received a $7.2 million grant from the federal government for a $9.1 project to improve the Hennepin Lyndale Bottleneck. Some hope for a dramatic change, but planners estimated each day 55,000 vehicles use the bottleneck going north south. Thus, they seem loath to cut down the number of lanes.
City Engineer Ole Mersinger said the lanes range from 12 to 15 feet wide and the plan is to shrink them all down to 11 feet to pick up some boulevard space.
BAC members were curious why city planners had ignored a 2009 study suggesting a serious overhaul of the bottleneck design, possibly including a traffic circle. The study recommended against putting more money maintaining the present design. The engineers said major changes were likely beyond the scope of this project.
Digging into plans as is, Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition president Ethan Fawley was concerned about adding a pork chop turn because it makes it more dangerous for bicyclists. The engineers noted this and seemed willing to alter the design. While they were at it, Fawley also suggested removing a lane of westbound Hennepin going into Dunwoody Boulevard since its three lanes of Hennepin go into two westbound Dunwoody lanes anyway. This would allow a bike lane through to connections to Cedar Lake Trail and Van White Boulevard. (Later in the meeting, City Bicycle Planner Simon Blenski reported that change was beyond the scope of the repaving project discussed last month.)
BAC member Robin Garwood identified the Loring Greenway's crossing of the Interstate 94 Loring Avenue offramp as the most dangerous conflict point because bicyclists have to wait a long time, maybe even 6 minutes to cross. The long wait time leads some bicyclists to run the light putting them at risk of cars coming off a freeway around a blind curve.
The city is going to take bicycle and pedestrian counts along the bottlenecks on Tuesday April 22 through Thursday April 24. After these counts and a traffic analysis, the planners will prepare a preliminary layout. The city will do outreach for comments on the preliminary layout in June and July 2014. Construction will be in 2015/2016. Planners will seek input from the PAC Infrastructure and Engineering Subcommitte at its meeting on April 17.
Nicollet Mall Redesign
Project Manager David Frank returned to discussed the latest on the Nicollet Mall Redesign. Frank mentioned that the project will not move forward if state bonding and private money through property tax assessment cannot be secured.
"We looked at a dedicated facility, either lanes or what I'll call cycle track or protected lanes, and what the project is moving ahead with at the moment is that Nicollet Mall would continued to be shared in the same way it is today. That bikes and transit would continue to use the space between the curbs together with some improvements and upgrades," Frank said.
Frank laid out the five options the city and consulting firm considered. Desire to focus on pedestrian amenities, green space and sidewalk cafe led them to option 5. The consensus among city council members, business leaders, and the mayor was that pedestrians would be focus on Nicollet Mall.
Option 1: Side Bicycle Lane - Five foot lane on the edge
Option 2A+B: Side Bicycle Sharrows - Bike sharrows with five foot lane on edges, possibly treatments behind bus shelters
Option 3: Center Bike Facility - 2-way centerline cycle track
Option 4: Shared Lanes, Transit + Bike - Everyone shares 12 foot lanes
Option 5: Bike Queue Jump and Turn Box -12 foot shared travel lanes, but the flare out and widen at intersection to allow passing
Bike queue jumps allow bikes to pass busses at stops without going into oncoming traffic lane. Bicyclists can wait at lights past the busses to get a head start. A compressible flangeway in Chicago offered a model planners hope to use to allow bicyclists to safely share the space with streetcar tracks. Frank said the streetcar is heavy enough to push down the flange but a bicyclist is not, and he believes no matter what angle a bicyclist rides across the flange it will not compress. He also said the bicycle passing lane would be different color concrete to delineate the space in a permanent way.
BAC Member Paul Frenz pointed out that they were planning a protected bikeway in January and now in April the plan is different, and he had reservations about the flange, which members had not had a chance to try yet. Garwood said he thought it was unlikely that a protected bike lane would be brought back into the plan at this point.
The subcommittee passed a motion to call for a north south protected bikeway route through downtown (defined as between Hennepin Avenue and 3rd Avenue, inclusive) to be constructed at the same time as the Nicollet Mall re-design if Nicollet doesn't get a separated facility. Later, in the meeting the subcommittee heard about the Lasalle Avenue repaving plans which did not include a bike facility, dashing another hope for a protected north south route through downtown.